Rising Apple’s Sam Maxwell will choose a game each week from Mets history to focus on. If anyone has certain games they would like remembered, please feel free to send suggestions our way on twitter.
The Metropolitans of 1962 were infamously bad, losing 120 games and setting the bar for how atrocious a baseball team can be. Their roster was sprinkled with youngsters of little talent and has-been veterans, including Richie Ashburn, Frank Thomas, Charlie Neal and Gil Hodges. Truth be told, had they fielded the team a few years earlier, they might have been pretty good. But alas, they went into an April 23 match-up with an 0-9 record, facing the undefeated Pittsburgh Pirates at Forbes Field in the Steel Town.
Up to bat in the top of the 1st, the tables were immediately turned when Felix Mantilla singled and advanced to 2nd base on an error by the Pirates’ left fielder Bob Skinner. Elio Chacon (of “Yo La Tengo” fame) then singled and Mantilla went over to 3rd base. With Gus Bell up to the plate, Pirates pitcher Tom Sturdivant did his best impression of the ’62 Mets, unleashing a wild pitch that only traveled far enough to allow Chacon to make it to 2nd. Mantilla, however, stayed put at 3rd. Bell then hit a fly ball to left field, moving Chacon over to 3rd and scoring Mantilla for the first run of the day. Frank Thomas followed with a carbon copy play, flying out to left as well to plate Chacon.
The Mets handed over a 2-0 lead to Jay Hook. He had pitched rather well in his first start of the year, but unfortunately the Mets lost in extra innings. In the bottom of the 1st 50 years ago today, he was extremely efficient, inducing weak contact and striking a batter out. Could the Mets 1st inning recipe for success actually continue through an entire ball game?
Turns out, on this day, it most certainly could. Charlie Neal led off the 2nd with a double. Sturdivant then walked Jim Hickman and Chris Cannizzaro to load the bases. Danny Murtaugh, the Pirates manager, ran out of patience quickly for his starter, pulling him before he could even get an out in the inning. Diomedes Olivo was called on for relief but provided none, giving up a single to the pitcher Hook, which plated both Neal and Hickman. After a sac fly and two more singles, the Mets had a Miraculously Amazin’ 6-0 lead heading into the bottom of the 2nd.
By the end of the day, the Mets had scored 9 runs. Hook was fantastic, pitching a complete game with a line that read 1 run, 5 hits, 1 walk and 2 strikeouts. He also reached base twice, batting 2 runners in and touching home himself both times he was on. The Mets could have scored 10 runs, but a right fielder listed as R. Clemente naturally threw Elio Chacon out at home in the top of the 6th for the last out of that inning. The Mets ended the day with a 1-9 record, and the Pirates suffered their first loss, ending the day with a record of 10-1.
Things, however, got back to normal the next day. The Pirates won and the Mets began a new losing streak, this one only 3 games long. At one point in the season, they would have a losing streak that lasted an enormous 17 games.
But for one game, on April 23rd, 1962, everybody there could play this game.